An employee getting “fired” or “dismissed” from their employment is a common occurrence and can happen to any employee. Sometimes the employee is advised that his or her job has been “eliminated.” Many employees will be “let go” by their employer at least once during their employment life. Oftentimes this culminates in a letter which may include other documents from the employer that set out how the employee will be dismissed and what entitlements the employee may receive upon dismissal. This letter is called a “termination letter.” The letter and other termination documents may also be called a “termination package.” It may also be called a severance offer or termination offer, exit agreement or early retirement package. However, regardless of the terminology, these documents are generally the same thing and include the same types of information.
The first step that any employee should take once they have been dismissed and have in hand their termination letter or package should be to approach an employment lawyer for that lawyer to review those documents. There are various legal issues and entitlements at play and the employee should get those documents reviewed in order to ensure that they have received everything that they are entitled to. It is very common that when an employer presents an employee with a termination package or letter, the employer encourages the employee to accept it quickly, sometimes with a deadline. However, the employee need not feel rushed to quickly accept what the employer presents and should still approach an employment lawyer in order to review the termination letter or package. This is because of how common it is that an employer’s initial termination letter or package offers the employee a lot less than what the employee is entitled to.
For example, the employment lawyer will look at whether the termination letter or package meets the minimum standards of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000. The employment lawyer will determine whether the employer has ensured that termination pay is properly determined and whether there is any severance pay owed to the employee, if there are any vacation pay or benefits that remain owing to the employee, etc.
Further, the employment lawyer will also look at the termination letter or package to see if the employee is entitled to common law notice in addition to any of the statutory entitlements under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000. This is because an employer can only lawfully limit an employee’s entitlement to proper notice under the common law if the employer’s employment agreement’s termination clause is enforceable.
So, what happens after the termination letter or package is reviewed?
Generally, the employment lawyer will then help the dismissed employee to figure out how best to proceed with the termination letter or package. For example, should the employee accept the termination package or not? Should they go on to retain an employment lawyer to assist them in negotiating better terms than is set out in the termination letter? Or should they just sue the employer for wrongful dismissal? All these questions would be addressed.
The bottom line is that each dismissed or terminated employee’s case is specific to his or her circumstances and they should contact an employment lawyer when they have been wrongfully dismissed or risk losing out on compensation owed to them. A good example of this is in the context of the employment contract which attempts to restrict the employee’s common law notice entitlements thereby preventing the employee from receiving substantial compensation. Employment lawyers regularly fight against unenforceable termination provisions contained in employment contract or agreements.
We cannot stress enough that where an employee has experienced a wrongful termination, or to determine whether that employee may be entitled to receive compensation, they should contact one of our experienced lawyers today to discuss their options. Do not attempt to negotiate with the employer without a lawyer’s assistance.